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Oklahoma State Football

Part One: Why to Not Be Scared of Changing Personnel on Defense

February 26, 2022

STILLWATER – Oklahoma State started the 2021 football season with 14 linebackers and when Joe Bob Clements gets his linebackers ready to run through individual drills early in the first spring practice for the Cowboys on Tuesday, March 22 he will have 11 of those same linebackers that were part of the 12-2 season this past fall looking up at him. The linebackers coach is new, but it is the difference of a young graduate assistant in Koy McFarland to a 24-year college coaching veteran in Clements. That is a move up. The defensive coordinator is different with Derek Mason moving in for the departed Jim Knowles. At linebacker, Malcolm Rodriguez, Devin Harper, and local walk-on that contributed Adam Martin are the players missing. Rodriguez and Harper are All-American and dominating All-Big 12 type performers. They are huge.

Bruce Waterfield/OSU Athletics
Clements takes over the linebackers.

However, don’t cry for Clements, Mason, or the Cowboys. I’m the last one that would sit at this desk and type that linebacker is going to pick up where it left off in Arizona as the Cowboys beat Notre Dame with Rodriguez and Harper making 21 of the 68 tackles in the game. On the season, Rodriguez and Harper combined for 226 tackles, 15.5 tackles-for-loss, nine sacks, four fumbles recovered, and five fumbles caused. The defensive totals were 855 tackles, 114 tackles-for-loss, 57 sacks, eight fumbles recovered, and 12 fumbles caused.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mason Cobb makes a tackle in bowl game.


The other linebackers returning from last season include promising Mason Cobb, speedy Kamryn Farrar, junior college transfer Lamont Bishop, special teams stalwart Jeff Roberson, promising freshman that red-shirted in Nickolas Martin, and walk-on Constantino Borrelli. That group combined for 34 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, and 4.5 sacks.

Okay, I know, you’re thinking what is Robert Allen thinking? It is time to panic. No, because the X-factor is one of the players that wasn’t here last season.

Xavier Benson will fit in well joining Cobb, Farrar, Roberson, and Bishop as leaders at the position. Benson has started a season in the Big 12 at Texas Tech. He had 10 starts and played in all 12 games finishing with 57 tackles, four tackles-for-loss and a sack. That was his red-shirt freshman season. Last fall in earning All-American honors in the NJCAA and being named Defensive Player of the Year in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference he had 120 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery.

Tyler Paper
Benson helped Tyler JC to the SWJCFC Championship Game.

Teaming Benson, who is from Pleasant Grove High School in East Texas with Nickolas Martin, an athletic dynamo young linebacker that was All-State will be perfect. Martin is from Pleasant Grove and the Benson and Martin families are good friends with Martin looking up to Benson. Not only do the Cowboys have a proven commodity to add to some solid developing linebackers, but they may have brought in the perfect mentor for the most talented of the younger linebackers.

On the surface there may be concern, but with a depth of understanding this may be a perfect storm waiting to erupt at linebacker.    

Discussion from...

Part One: Why to Not Be Scared of Changing Personnel on Defense

2,726 Views | 7 Replies | Last: 2 yr ago by Robert Allen
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Ain't skeered here

On a side note, it's great to see that the schools around Texarkana are coming up in stature. When #1Son was a student and player for Texas High, Texas High and Arkansas High were the dominant athletic programs in the Texarkana area. Back when we lived there (1999-2001) both Pleasant Grove and LE were not at the level of the two flagship schools of the area (THS & AHS). Love it to see that we have TWO kids on the Pokes team from Pleasant Grove, and seems like we had a player from Liberty Eilau in the not-too-distant past.
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YIPES.... that is almost too much orange kool-aid even for me to swallow.

I'm hopeful that our defensive drop-off is not too severe, and that the OLine is enough better that our offense can make up for the defensive drop and keep us playing a decent win total.

but that is a whole lot of hoping and a wishing on my part
Robert Allen
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Not saying that production and play will match what we experienced in the 2021 season. What I do believe based on the players returning, the players being added, and the coaches, both departed and added, is that the play will be solid and competitive in 2022 and with that year of experience and virtually all of those players returning for 2023 it could build to another very strong season in 2023. Development is the key. In the Oklahoma State program development is always the key and the evaluation of finding players that have the ability to develop and match what some schools may be closer to brining in initially in the recruiting process. Often the developmental players pass the initial 4-5 star recruits walking in the door other places.
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Robert, I was surprised that Bishop wasn't a more prominent part of your projection for a possible linebacker duo with Benson. Is Martin your guess over Bishop because Bishop hasn't shown/grown enough since arriving or is Martin just a young stud IYO or do Benson and Bishop perhaps both fit one position type better, and Martin fits the other?. I recall quite a bit of hype about Bishop arriving at OSU based on his juco success and the recruiting ratings having him high nationally too last year. I was excited to see OSU perhaps having two good sized LB's stepping in this year.
Robert Allen
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I would project the starting pair of linebackers to be Mason Cobb and Xavier Benson and Lamont Bishop and a battle between Farrar, Martin, and Stephens behind Benson.
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What about Na'drian Dizadare?
Robert Allen
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He is there and needs to have a good spring, needs to prove he can help. Injuries held him back last season. The coaches will play the guys that earn it. The new linebacker coach, Joe Bob Clements is especially that way.
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